Friday, July 30, 2010

A Tool Bag for a Handy-girl

So I know I said earlier that I wanted a tool bag to replace my Trader Joe's canvas bag I'd been using. It's like the guys over at Uncrate heard and answered with an awesome suggestion: The Timbuk2 Tool Shed ($35). It's like an oversized, rough and tough jewelry travel bag but instead of necklaces it holds all my neat wrenches and pliers and screwdrivers. Not my hammer though. I will still need a tool box. Maybe a bucket.  Tool bucket?

Until I get a real tool bag, I'm stapling together some old aprons together. Pretty? No, but four aprons equals eight pockets that can hold all kinds of tools. Photos to come.

Timbuk2 website
Uncrate website

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

An Open Letter to Apple

Dear Apple,

Hi. My name is Patricia and I am deeply in debt. I attended a pretty sweet university for undergrad and then picked up my Masters with the hope that soon I will get a job that will enable me to purchase all of a few of the Apple products that I want. Until then, could you please stop releasing awesome stuff like the Macbook Air ($1499), or, you know, the iPad ($499), or what is new this week and looks really amazing, the Magic Trackpad ($69). Honestly? A trackpad, perfect for scrolling that you can use up to 33 feet away from your computer? Pair this with a Mac mini and a flat screen TV and you have the perfect recipe for movies, presentations, editing film, Photoshop-ing... really the possibilities are way up there.

To come back to my point: stop that. Stop making neat technology that I can't currently afford. Keep making the iPhone 4 and reusable battery chargers ($29). Continue to update iTunes and iChat and all the other iApplications. You can even release another cat-themed operating system (might I suggest Ocelot). But stop with the mouth-watering-ly cool stuff. I just can't take it anymore.


Patricia Murphy

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Warming the House: Cast Iron Grill

Cooking is required for eating, but cooking outside is fun. Our new place has a tiny deck in the back that we've decided can hold a grill. We currently have a round, frankenstein-ed, hand-me-down grill that will require cinder blocks to stand on before we could use it.

Instead of 84¢ cinder blocks, why don't we just get the Lodge Logic Sportsman's Grill ($84)? It's cast iron! It weighs 32 pounds! It cooks so evenly, your mouth will water just thinking about it! Our neighbors would be jealous and our steaks would be medium rare.

Lodge Cast Iron website

In the meantime, I need two of these:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Music Monday! Dawes does good.

I'm not one to know anything about music. I mean, I could tell you a thing or two about the mechanics of it, but I am usually hesitant to try new things (for example, I rarely see movies in the theater). However, I've been making an effort to listen to new/different music, thanks in part to Grooveshark, Daytrotter and some friends with decent taste. This band I found on Daytrotter because they were a top download, which I figured to be a good sign.

Coming soon to a Midwest or Northeast city near you: Dawes. The song that caught my roommate's attention was "God Rest My Soul;" I was sold on "Love Is All I Am." I love the raw feeling of Daytrotter sessions to begin with, but so too are these guys' lyrics. They are folk, but the singer has a nice bluegrass feel to him, which makes me realize I don't know what either of those genres really are.

Now to convince them to release their next album on LP. In the meantime, their debut album "North Hills" is on iTunes ($10).

Dawes website
Dawes on Twitter
Dawes on Myspace

Bonus track: Ooks of Hazard cover MGMT Yay ukulele! 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wish list with a purpose: give if you give a dam...

A dam has burst in my home state of Iowa, emptying a nine-mile lake and causing millions of dollars of damage for hundreds of families. Flooding isn't exactly a new phenomenon for Iowa, but rarely does it lead to the loss of an entire lake.

 I'll update this post as rebuilding projects are announced.

Get involved:

  • If you are in the area and have free time this week you can volunteer to haul garbage from private land to a public site. Call Lake Delhi’s flood volunteer coordinator, Barb DeKlotz is (563) 922-2058 or (319) 210-9378.
  • Nowhere near Iowa? You can donate to the Grant Wood Area Red Cross's disaster relief fund on their website.

Video of lake emptying
NY Times article on the flood

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Batter Blaster: Fun, Organic and Pancakes??

I don't know if this happens much to others, but I have a habit of dating guys whose mothers I get along with, usually to the point that I end up missing them more than I do my ex-boyfriends. One of these wonderful ladies introduced me to Batter Blasters. Her son and I were so inspired by the idea, we drove an hour out of our way to find a few cans. Nowadays you can find them in most Meijer stores.

These pancakes are delicious. Think if someone took a can of Easy Cheese, but instead of processed cheese they fill it with organic pancake mix. Tasty pancakes on demand! Fewer dishes! No "we're-out-of-eggs-how-are-we-going-to-make-pancakes" emergencies. Just heat your griddle or waffle iron, point and ...blast!

Perfect for Saturday mornings!

Batter Blasters website (with video instructions)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Carbon Monoxide alarm! Install one today!

This is a request that you all install a carbon monoxide detector in your homes. I purchased one last week to justify buying a wireless doorbell, and I'm extremely thankful for it.  My roommate had a rough wake up yesterday when it went off. She called the fire department, who took an initial scan and then evacuated our apartment. Then they sent a fireman all suited up to take another reading. According to what they found, if the carbon monoxide detector hadn't alerted us to the extremely high levels of CO, we wouldn't have woken up this morning.

This is the alarm I bought, and I will now recommend it to anyone and everyone: Kidde Combination Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarm with Talking Alarm ($39). It actually talks to you and lets you know if you should be worried about smoke or CO.

Update (7/29): Join Kiddie on Facebook! They give away a carbon monoxide alarm every Friday!
Also follow Kidde Safety on Twitter

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The last socks you'll ever want to buy.

Stroke Socks.  These are amazing socks.  Socks you actually ask for at Christmas time.  Socks that make your "business casual" more like "business awesome."  These striped socks are durable as heck and rarely get you chastised when you are breaking dress code.  They come in 17 different color patterns, including two in shorter sizes. I regularly wear mine when I need to wear a suit. They are the perfect trouser socks for work shoes, but also line a boot nicely. Stroke Socks: you want them. Trust me.

The back story is pretty sweet too: J. Stroke is a designer/audio composer who felt that socks were lacking in many areas.  So he designs a few socks and can't keep them in stock.  Ten years later, he's still selling socks and continues to amaze (at least this reviewer).

Stroke Sock about page
Twitter of the guy who introduced me to Stroke Socks

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cherries: they're the pits!

Building shelves and attempting to start running again (I might've promised someone I'd do a half marathon with him in October) has left me pretty sore. Thankfully I have an awesome Cherry Stone neck pillow ($30). I'm a big fan of cherries in almost every form and this neat little pillow is made out of dried cherry pits that you put in the microwave for two minutes and it provides a moist heat for your hurts. There are some that come with essential oils already inside them, but it without any additional scent it has a nice earthy smell.

Another option is the Cherry pit pad from esty ($15). This one is sports themed, which makes me happy, but they have other designs. Look forward to more cherry products on here, I have family from Traverse City, MI: Cherry Capital of the World.

Amanda Palmer: Rockin' the Ukulele

I have a friend who joined the circus and he is a big fan of Amanda Palmer. The circus fact isn't actually relevant to this post, but has always impressed me nonetheless. Today he got pretty excited about the release of Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on her Magical Ukulele. She released 1000 copies of a red vinyl album, and I'm happy to report that my friend managed to reserve one. I was sadly too slow to act to get the LP (which is now on my wish list) but am pretty excited to download the digital version ($0.84 – ??). Ms. Palmer is allowing her fans to pay as little as 84¢ for the download, but they have the option to pay more. Good business model? Maybe not, but it does nothing to diminish her fans' loyalty.

It's Ukulele Time! website
Amanda Palmer on Twitter
My friend who is no longer with the circus on Twitter

Note: I thought I would do a Music Monday theme and was actually really excited that I had two weeks in a row with music ideas, but then realized that Monday was yesterday. Now the goal will be to have some music every week, though it won't always be on the same day. For this to happen, I need constant recommendations. I can't rely on my circus friend to be the sole provider of musical advice (though, I do admit he has a pretty good nose for such things. Or ear. Or two ears even...). So please send any new bands, songs, or otherwise musical ideas that you're digging to and I'll give it a listen!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Building Bookshelves: fun on a Sunday

Moving into a new place with limited storage can be a challenge. This is why man created shelves and why Sweden gave us IKEA. What I've discovered while attempting to organize my new space with shelving:

  • Wood is not cheap. I was hoping to build some heavy, built-in bookcases but found that the shiny, real kind of wood costs about as much as just buying a wall of shelving from the above-referenced store. 

  • You don't need to own a saw to build things. The nice men at Lowe's will cut down wood to your specifications. (However, this doesn't meant that I don't want a saw($75): PORTER-CABLE  7-1/4" 15-Amp Laser-Guided Circular Saw.) 
  • Splinters are inevitable. 
  • I could really use a tool bag (Bucket Boss 06007 GateMouth Jr. Tool Bag, $17).  My last one was a canvass Trader Joe's bag that my cat took offense to last week. 
  • Three 16"x57"x1" shelves can hold a lot of books. I'm glad I only did three and left room below incase I want to refigure my desk to fit there. I'd need to borrow someone's saw though... 
Overall, this was a great project, costing around $100 for three shelves here and four shelves in the kitchen. Plus I have a leftover piece of wood roughly 16"x15"x1" that I can't wait to paint.  If I did end up buying a bookcase or two for my bed room, it would be IKEA's Billy Jäder bookcase ($50), which is covered in quotations by William Shakespeare. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Wish list with a purpose: Ample Harvest

Do you garden? Do you end up with way too many zucchinis and beans at the end of your harvest? Well instead of foisting them upon your unsuspecting neighbors and co-workers, you might consider donating your excess produce to an Ample Harvest food pantry. We all know that fresh, locally grown food is great, why not share the extras with your neighbors in need?

Ample Harvest's goal is to provide access to healthier produce at food pantries that might otherwise go directly to waste or compost.  "Most food pantries can provide only canned vegetables and fruit to their clients." They also work to put local food pantries on the map, searchable by Google and in the phone books, which makes sense as most pantries IT departments are probably pretty darn small.

How you can help:

  • Save the extra produce from your garden.
  • Find a pantry near you. 
  • You can donate fresh produce even if you don't grow it! Pick up a few extra servings of fruits and veggies and drop them off.
  • Download (.pdf), print and hang a flier encouraging gardeners to share their harvest.
  • Donate to Ample Harvest.
  • Educate yourself and others on Hunger in America.

Ample Harvest on Twitter
Ample Harvest iPhone app (Yeah, there's an app for that..)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What is Blik? It's Wall Art!

If you guys follow my twitter*, you probably already know about Blik Wall Decals.  The one I could see going fabulously on my currently naked walls is their Foxy decal ($45) based on a Threadless t-shirt. I've always had a thing for foxes. (Not familiar with Threadless? If you like being clothed, then I would suggest checking them out for your graphic t-shirt needs.)  Vinyl wall decals are a great way to decorate large sections of your wall without damaging the paint job. This is especially important if you are renting and don't want to spend a few days repainting or spackling before moving out.

Designs at Blik aren't just based on t-shirts. They also have ones that look like classic video games, giant flowers, crazy animals and pretend headboards (for when space is an issue). Some of their vinyls are made to go on non-wall stuff like iPods or computers.

Following Blik on twitter is a great way to find out about new designs and sales.  For example, on Friday everything was 15% off because they were going to a party, so I went ahead and bought a little something for above the fireplace in our living room.

Blik Website
Blik on Twitter

* I laugh every time I reference an audience. Not even my mom reads this. I doubt she reads my twitter, either.

Friday, July 16, 2010

In the summer time, my thoughts turn to hammocks

I recently moved from a spacious one-bedroom to a "cozy" two-bedroom with my friend.  The original plan was to get rid of my bed and sleep in a hammock, but the hammock that I purchased (below) is more "sitting outside for an hour" than "getting a full night's sleep" comfortable.

How fortunate that last weekend at Forecastle Festival the guys from Eagles Nest Outfitters Inc (ENO) gave me the opportunity to test their wares, which in this case are extremely comfortable hammocks.

The hammocks, available in "SingleNest" ($55), "DoubleNest" ($65), and the lighter "ProNest" ($65) varieties, cradle the body without creating pressure points.  They are made from breathable nylon, can hold up to 400 lbs, stuff down to very tiny and come in a billion colors (or 13, whichever is lower).  Check out the ENO photo gallery for some truly breathtaking shots of where people are taking their ENO naps.

Discovering ENO this week has an added bonus: the good folks over at Branch Whipped are giving away a DoubleNest hammock to one lucky contest entrant.  Just for doing things you should probably already want to ("like" ENO on facebook, follow them on Twitter), you have an opportunity to win a hammock built for two. The deadline for entering is July 24. Good luck!

Eagles Nest Outfitters Inc Website
ENO on Twitter

Comfortable, but no ENO

Looking for recommendations from cheap audiophiles

I'm looking to invest in a nice set of headphones and a half-decent pair of speakers.  Send your suggestions or blatant advertising to or comment below.

Seriously, I need to hear you. 

Update: suggested Skullcandy Aviatar ($150) 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bill Bryson's At Home

Thanks to the brilliant Shelf Awareness daily email, I just found out that my favorite author Bill Bryson is about to come out with a new book: At Home: a Short History of Private Life ($29). You might be familiar with his extensive back list including: A Walk in the Woods, I'm a Stranger Here Myself, A Short History of Nearly Everything, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, and (my favorite) Mother Tongue: English and How it Got That Way. For his awesomeness, the man was given his own day and the key to the City of Des Moines, Iowa (below), which happens to be hometown to both of us.

Due out in October, At Home looks like another winner: Bryson takes a historic look at the way people live and interact with their surroundings, all without really leaving his house. If it is anything like his earlier works, this book with be both cheerfully insightful and  at times laugh-out-loud witty. I can't wait.

While you wait: Mother Tongue for $5 at

Wall art: Tea Pot Love

I just moved into a new place with my best friend and our walls are naked (!). We've vowed not to let our walls be covered with the typical college-aged posters. Solution: beautiful art prints from places like Zara Illustrates (via Esty). These clean, colorful prints ($20) are enough to brighten any room. My roommate and I have combined our tea pot collection (there are around 7 or 8 currently) and the perfect complement to our kitchen would be one of these Zara Picken illustrations.

Also sweet: the musical Journey print. For sure on the wish list to go with the rest of my vinyl  collection.

Oh hey! Updating the post from yesterday: I found We Were Promised Jetpacks vinyl for sale in the US! Punk For Peace sells all kinds of great music with part of each sale going to some great charities. If you live in Rochester, NY, you also get to save shipping costs. Pay in person or by check, save an addition 5%!

We Were Promised Jetpacks LP ($18)

Monday, July 12, 2010

My next music: We Were Promised Jetpacks

Went to the Forecastle music festival this weekend, had a blast, and am now kicking myself for not buying a t-shirt of the Scottish band We Were Promised Jetpacks.  I can't find any place that sells their clothing merchandise online, so I will happily settle for their MP3s from iTunes and buying the LP of their debut album "These Four Walls." The only challenge now: finding the LP, as FatCat Records is sold out.

Free Download of Daytrotter Studios recording!
We Were Promised Jetpacks on myspace

Wish list: We Were Promised Jetpacks t-shirt or LP

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wish list with a purpose: Ronald McDonald House

On Sundays we'll do things a little different: instead of focusing on what I think is shiny and cool, Sundays are devoted to some great non-profits that have wish lists of their own. Today's non-profit is the Ronald McDonald House Charities, especially the Houses themselves. This is a great organization that provides a place for families to stay when they need to travel when their children are undergoing medical treatments. The Houses provide home-cooked meals, private bedrooms and play areas, with all the services provided by volunteers.

Each House has its own wish list, but something are ubiquitously needed: travel size soaps, shampoo, conditioner and deodorant, disposable razors, toothbrushes, energy efficient light bulbs, disinfectant spray, bottle water and gift cards to home improvement, office supply and grocery stores.

This is such an easy charity to help, especially if you are a traveler. Collect the unopened hotel soaps and shampoos, find your local RMH and donate. The RMHC also has a pop-tab collection program, which is a ridiculously easy way to donate: just keep the tabs off the pop/soda/canned beverages you already drink.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

T-shirts to make other states jealous

I'm a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl, and if you ever meet me, you'll figure out pretty quick that 50% of my t-shirt wardrobe is from RAYGUN shirts in Des Moines, IA. It's gotten to the point that all my friends in Kentucky actually know that Iowa exists (and is a pretty cool place). These guys make hilarious collection of Iowa and Des Moines -themed shirts that are super comfortable.

RAYGUN stuff on the Wish list:

Des Moines: The Greatest City in the World

Friday, July 9, 2010

Havaianas: not your average sandal.

Go Oranje?
Viva España?
So I was in Brazil for about six weeks one summer. It rains a lot in Brazil, especially during their winter. I volunteered at a Ronald McDonald house on the outskirts of town, which was a 30 minute bus ride and then about a mile walk. When it rained, my Tevas would get smelly, so my host mother suggested I pick up a pair of Havaianas because they don't absorb the water. I already owned a pair back in the states, but after a few extremely rainy days, I grabbed another pair on my way to volunteer and really haven't taken them off since. I even wore them for a 10-mile hike through the Amazon (not really recommended, but quite handy for jumping into waterfalls).

I love having the Brazilian flag on my sandals to remind me of this trip. This year, however, Havaianas came out with flagged flip flops for 17 different countries with teams in the World Cup ($24)! It might be a little late to support your team (Go USA in 2014!), but these sandals are stylish and comfortable and shipping is free if you order three or more pairs!

Havianas website

Some tough flip flops!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Monkeys and Wine: Sounds Messy

Confession: I am a big fan of monkey-themed decorations and gifts. However, that is only one of the reasons that I'm going to get a Wine Monkey Bottle Cozy ($10) for my cousin Sarah. You can find this delightful guy at, where they tend to agree with me: "It's true–monkeys make everything better." Made of cotton, this sock monkey is sure to turn any boring bottle of wine into a tasty smile.

I'm sure this isn't the only time I will mention ThinkGeek, so you might as well check them out:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Barefoot Running. Kinda.

The summer after high school I met a guy who hated wearing shoes to the point that he'd acquired the nickname "Barefoot Boy." Though his freedom was inspiring, I've always been a bit nervous to go barefooted through the world.  Fortunately, the good people at Vibram have created an entire line of shoes that are designed to free your feet from the hindrance of regular shoes.

These Five Fingers shoes are sweet.  Though they have shoes for a wide range of sports or leisure, the pair I have my eyes are is the Bikila ($100), designed especially for running.  According to Vibram, the Bikila "encourages a more natural, healthier, and more efficient forefoot strike," not to mention looks pretty cool.

Vibram Five Fingers website
Bikila "technology" site: You are the Technology: beautiful marketing tool for the Bikila shoe

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Crumpler bags: I like 'em, I love 'em, I want some more of 'em

I carry all my cool gadgets (and all my boring stuff, too) in Crumpler bags. Though I first discovered this company in 2002, Crumpler has been around since 1995 when it began making messenger bags in Australia. These bags are nearly indestructible, can pack more than meets the eye, and look awesome. I almost wish mine would fall apart so I would have a good reason to buy another.

Right now I'm coveting the Limited Edition Hoax ($120), big enough to carry two six-packs of beer. I love that it comes with the Quick Flick™ heavy-duty strap. This bag could make me quit my day job and look into a career as a bike messenger.

Crumpler Site: With full flash
Crumpler Lite (no flash)

I might be late to the party, but I hope it's fashionable late.

There are many websites out there dedicated to awesome new products and services that appeal to different groups. Among my favorites are Uncrate (catering to men) and NOTCOT (catering to a broad audience, especially design folk). What I hope to create is a "buyer's guide" for the twenty to thirty something woman who used to be a tomboy, for the girl who would as for an ax from the Best Made Co., and anyone who has ever been a fan of Rosie the Riveter.